When is the Right Time for a Team Meeting?

Feb 22, 2021

Let’s be honest…

When was the last time you were truly excited to attend a meeting?

With the prevalence of digital Zoom meetings today, the meeting fatigue is real. 

But – whose fault is it that meetings suck?

The person who set up the meeting? Leadership for not allowing meeting creativity and activity budgets?

We’re not here to point fingers.

We are here to understand when a team meeting is necessary and how to make it an enjoyable experience for all. We’re also giving away some meeting email templates and team meeting agenda outlines so you can put awesome meetings on auto-pilot. 

When is a team meeting necessary?

Here at Vowel, we love meetings.

Not because they’re some magically great experience automatically – but because you can turn them into experiences rather than just another team meeting.

It all starts by understanding if a team meeting is actually necessary. 

We don’t know how big your “team” is – it could be 2 people or 200 people – but each meeting takes up precious time. Deciding when to get other people involved in an idea or project is critical. Here are our tips for deciding when a team meeting is necessary: 

    • You have a complete idea – When we say “complete idea” we mean that you didn’t just have an epiphany at 3am and want to call everyone together to discuss. Do your homework and research. Maybe put together a PowerPoint presentation. Just have all your ducks in a row before you ever call a team meeting.
    • You need feedback – Once you have an idea or next step deliverable and you need serious LIVE feedback, a team meeting can be great. However, if feedback can be given within the document using technology, don’t waste everyone’s time.
    • You’re stuck – We’ve all been there. We had a clear deliverable from the last team meeting but we’re not sure what to do next. Complex projects and ideas can sometimes use another brain to look at the problem. Think about having a smaller team meeting for this.
    • You have a big announcement – And we’re not talking about an announcement that can be made via Slack or email. A big announcement might be a new CEO or a new round of fundraising. If you anticipate press for something, think about having a team meeting.
  • You’re onboarding a new team member – Getting newbies up and running takes time and effort. Dedicating a meeting to introducing them to your company, their team members, and their role can alleviate growing pains. Just make sure to stay focused and make sure your new hire knows who to go to with questions. Don’t be afraid to start these meetings with an icebreaker to help your new team member feel open and comfortable.
  • You’re kicking off a new project with a client – Kickoff meetings are arguably the most important type of client meeting. Getting everyone involved in the project on the same page is more than worthy of everyone’s time. Kickoff meetings are perfect for decision making, setting expectations and goals, and nailing down project strategies.
  • You’ve found regular team meetings to be productive – Plenty of teams in almost any business sector have regularly scheduled daily or weekly standups to check in on project progress, client interactions, metrics, or, in the age of coronavirus, just to see each other’s faces on a video call (and hopefully talk about the aforementioned topics). These types of meetings may not always be necessary, but if they’ve worked for your team in the past, stick to it.

Basically, if something is really important and can’t be solved any other way besides live communication, a team meeting is likely needed.

When not to schedule a team meeting

Now that you know when a team meeting is necessary, it’s about the opposite – when not to schedule a team meeting.

While you might think it’s the exact opposite of the above, it’s a little more nuanced than that. You should not schedule a team meeting when:

  • You don’t have the power to – If you’ve just started somewhere or you’re pretty junior, it’s likely that you don’t have the authority to schedule a big team meeting – even if it’s not explicitly stated. Always ask your manager before scheduling a team meeting.
  • You don’t know everyone you’re personally inviting – You don’t need to know everyone personally, but you should at least have an idea of who they are on the team and what they’re expected contribution to the meeting is.
  • You haven’t tried to solve in other ways – The meme ‘this could have been an email’ exists for a reason. Don’t waste people’s time if you haven’t tried to solve something via email, Slack, Microsoft Teams, or one-on-one meetings.
  • You need a status update on a project – Chances are, team members are working on that project when you’re tempted to call a meeting anyway. Just shoot them an email or instant message so they can stay focused and complete their tasks faster.
  • You have no intention of following up – Think about it. How does it feel when a meeting is held and nothing happens afterward? Probably confusing and frustrating—like your time and everyone else’s was wasted. If you have this meeting, what will the follow up look like? Ask that question every time you schedule a meeting so you know what your team will get out of the discussion.

 

Team meeting scheduling etiquette

Okay, so you know you need a meeting for this. But there’s still an art to scheduling team meetings. Don’t worry, it’s mostly common sense. Here are our guidelines for scheduling effective team meetings so you make the most of your and your team’s time:

  • Only invite the team members who need to be there. – See? Common sense. You might be in the habit of selecting your entire team for meetings, but it’s time to break that. Only invite those who are directly involved in the task at hand.
  • Schedule meetings for natural transition times. – You know the rhythm of your team’s workday, like when everyone is most focused or when the team gets antsy an hour before it’s time to wrap up the day. Don’t schedule meetings for these times. Get everyone together when they’re shifting tasks so their workflow isn’t interrupted. Also – don’t schedule lunch meetings. No one likes those.
  • Make the topic of the meeting clear. – When you set a meeting, make sure the title clearly states what the meeting will be about. Lots of managers make the mistake of titling meetings with names of attendees. That makes it way too easy for the team to forget what they need to be prepared for.
  • Be cognizant of the meeting length. – Take a few extra seconds to consider how long the discussion will actually take. Most meetings scheduled for an hour really only need to be 45 minutes or even 30. Scheduling meetings for an appropriate length sets expectations and shows respect for your team’s time.
  • Leave enough time for preparation. – We can’t emphasize this enough. Be prepared for your meetings. This means having an agenda ready to go and sharing any relevant documents given to meeting participants ahead of time with time for them to read them and form questions and comments. And don’t forget equipment. Have the projector ready and the whiteboard clean or make sure the screenshare feature on your meeting software is working properly.
  • Make sure the meeting starts and ends on time. – Again, common sense. Be respectful of your team’s time and expect them to be respectful of others’. Don’t wait for stragglers to begin. Stick to the agenda. If you need to set a follow up meeting for further discussion, go for it— but don’t make everyone stick around when they were expecting to get back to work.
  • Make it clear who’s running the meeting. – Few things are worse than getting everyone together and not knowing where to start. An agenda helps there, yes, but having a discussion leader to guide the meeting is invaluable as well. They’ll keep attendees on topic, provide high-level insight, and make sure everything is moving smoothly.

Team meeting checklist

We’ve given you the strategy for having productive meetings, now let’s dive in with a quick checklist of what you need to do for those meetings:

  • Decide on the specific meeting topic
  • Select a discussion leader and a note taker. Or, better yet, for the latter task, let Vowel help the whole team collaborate on note taking in real time, bookmark key moments in the conversation, and create easy-to-search transcriptions so nothing is missed. 
  • Create a calendar event and invite attendees
  • Write up an agenda – Check out our handy template below or build one that meets your team needs
  • Draft handouts for meeting participants – Preferably shared beforehand to give time to review
  • Prepare the meeting space – or, these days, working links to virtual meeting rooms or Skype calls. Once things are “normal,” think about making sure there’s enough chairs, the whiteboard is clean, the projector is working—things like that.
  • Know what kind of follow-up you’re looking for – Make sure tasks are assigned during the meeting as needed

Email and agenda templates for team meetings

Given what we’ve learned about when a meeting is needed and how to best schedule one, here’s a template for requesting a meeting with your team.

Template for scheduling a meeting with your team

Subject: Scheduling meeting with [team name] for [specific topic]

Body: Hello [team or individuals’ names],

Let’s schedule a time when we can get together and discuss [specific topic]. I’ve let [team member name] know that they will be leading the discussion.

We’ve narrowed down the possible time slots to [days and times]. Go ahead and use [your team’s preferred scheduling method] to select what time works for you. I’ll send a confirmation email with the finalized day, time and location.

I’ve enclosed [documents attendees will need to prepare for the meeting]. Please read these in advance and prepare any comments or questions for [discussion leader] or myself.

Thanks,

[Your name]

[Don’t forget to attach any relevant documents!]

Template for meeting reminders and sharing meeting agenda

Subject: Meeting with [team name] for [specific topic]

Body: Hello [team or individuals’ names],

Just a reminder that we have a meeting to discuss [specific topic] on [day, time and location]. 

I’ve attached the meeting agenda as well as [documents attendees will need to review] so you can prepare for the discussion led by [team member name].

We plan to keep this meeting to a tight [duration], so please make sure to review the agenda.

Thanks,

[Your name]

[Don’t forget to attach the meeting agenda and other documents!]

Meeting agenda template

Meeting topic:

Date and time:

Location:

Please review: [names of documents team members should review before the meeting]

Discussion leader:

Meeting participants:

Subject and presenter Time allotted Notes and action items
Agenda item 1 X minutes
  • Talking point
  • Talking point
  • Actions to be assigned
Agenda item 2 X minutes
  • Talking point
  • Talking point
  • Actions to be assigned
Agenda item 3 X minutes
  • Talking point
  • Talking point
  • Actions to be assigned

Alternatively, you can use Vowel’s built in agenda function. You can pre-populate an agenda that will appear right in your meeting notes in Vowel.

Vowel | Meeting Agendas

Renny Chan, Head of Marketing

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